The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew/Chapter 5
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THE SILENCE OF GOD HOW IT SHALL BE BROKEN
" God, even God, the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof.
" Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth.
" Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him.
" He shall call to the heavens above, and to the eajlh, that He may judge His people.
" Gather My saints unto Me ; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.
" And the heavens shall declare His righteousness ; for God is Judge Himself. Selah.
" Hear, O My people, and I will speak ; O Israel, and I will testify unto thee : I am God, even thy God.
" I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices ; and thy burnt offerings are continually before Me.
" I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds.
" For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
" I know all the fowls of the mountains : and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
" If I were hungry, I would not tell thee : for the world is I. IN RELATION TO THE CHURCH.
To the redeemed the central point in "that blessed hope " of Christ's return is " our gathering together unto Him" (2 Thess. ii. i). Oh, it is Himself we long to see ; to behold that brow once crowned with thorns, and that face once marred by sorrow and suffering more than that of any other man ! It is for the fulfilment of His sweetest and most precious of promises, " I will come again and receive you unto Myself," that our hearts yearn. And this blessed consummation is brought before us in the fifth verse, where the inspired Psalmist, lifted by the Spirit of God, like the Apostle
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John, into the very midst of the apocalyptic events hears the very words of command to the angelic hosts as they fall from the lips of the descending Lord, "Gather My saints together unto Me."
Yes, the hour is come when in His progress to the earth, attended by the hosts of heaven, there shall be a pause, and He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. xxiv. 31); for this Divine proclamation for the gathering of His saints, is not their gathering unto Him in death, as some have misinterpreted it, but is the same as announced by the apostle, when " the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God ; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then, we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air ; and so shall we ever be with the Lord " (i Thess. iv. 13-18).
" The first experience which is before the redeemed is resurrection" (i Cor. xv. 51-55), but along with the resurrection of the sleeping saints comes the transfor- mation of the living. The earth being still the place of imperfection and sin the scene of death and judgment the Church is to be taken out of it. We shall meet Him in the air. When Christ descends the Church ascends. The earth's atmosphere is about two hundred miles in height room enough for the Church to meet Christ in it. I suppose the rapture of the Church will resemble somewhat the ascension of Jesus after His resurrection.
And after the transformation comes the meeting. Oh, most inexpressible and indescribable glory ! We are to see Jesus face to face the glorious Son of God, the brightness of the Father's glory.
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We talk of access to kings and queens, but what will it be to be ushered into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords ! We could not bear the glory and the brightness now, but then we shall be fitter for it ; for we shall be made like Him (i John iii. 2). We shall see Jesus ! that Jesus whom we know (oh, so im- perfectly !) now, and love, though not having seen as yet. " The same Jesus " who is already familiarised to us who spoke the Sermon on the Mount ; who wept at the grave of Lazarus ; who prayed in the upper chamber at Jerusalem ; who spoke the loved I4th, and prayed the wonderful i/th of John. "The same Jesus" that wept over Jerusalem the Christ of infinite com- passion, tenderness, pity, and truth. The Jesus who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever of Bethlehem and of the bosom of the Father, the Redeemer, Life, and Righteousness of His people. Him we are to see, and when we see Him we shall be like Him evermore see Him and evermore be like Him !" J
And if we want to know who are the " saints " who shall thus be gathered to Him, the answer is, " Those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice ; " or, literally, "Those that have cut My covenant over the sacrifice." The expression " cut " is explained by the ancient custom of cutting the slain animals and arranging the pieces so that the covenanting parties could pass through the midst. In this way they pledged their lives to the fulfilment of the contract and called down the fate of the slain sacrifices on themselves in case of unfaithfulness. But note the expression, " My covenant." Ah, in that word " My," lies the safety and blessedness of God's redeemed people, for, when God made promise to Abraham, in which promise are con- tained the blessings of the gospel to all who are of faith 1 H. Grattan Guinness.
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(Gal. iii. 8 ; Rom. iv. 9-25), and ratified the promise by covenant oath, " He sware by Himself" (Heb. vi. 13-20). He only, made promise, and pledged Himself to its fulfilment, for on that solemn night when the original unconditional covenant was made with the father of the faithful, after the animals were slain, and Abraham " divided them in the midst and laid each piece one against the other," a deep sleep came upon him, so that he was prevented from making any oath or promise : " And it came to pass that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces." These were the symbols of God's presence, but Abraham did not pass through. The unconditional covenant of grace is therefore not a contract between two parties as the con- ditional covenant of the law was, but a gracious promise dependent on the faithfulness of God only for its fulfil- ment, and it is called a ." covenant " for the probable reason, that the promise of gospel blessings to man is the outcome of a covenant in the eternal counsels between the Father and the Son, in reference to man's redemption.
It is therefore called "His covenant" and we enter into its gracious contents of blessings " over the sacri- fice." The true ratification of the covenant was not with the blood of animals. At the original " cutting of the covenant " with Abraham there were indeed animal sacrifices, and in connection with the Sinaitic covenant of the law we read that after Moses had spoken every precept to the people " he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you " ; but what were all the Levitical sacrifices but types and shadows of the true Lamb of
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God ? and what was the constant shedding of the blood of bulls and goats but a constant reminder before the throne of God of the precious blood of Christ, which in the fulness of time would be shed once and for all for the remission of sins? It is in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ that all the promises of God became "yea and amen " to us, and it is only through the rent veil of His flesh that we enter into all the blessings of the covenant of God's grace. Hear, therefore, the great High Priest Himself, on the very eve of His vicarious death, proclaiming, "This is the blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins ! "
And this, be it noted, is the chief and primary feature of all true saintship, for, in the verse in our psalm God's people are so called, not because of their con- dition, but on account of their relation to Him. Every one of the redeemed is constituted a " saint " by reason of the blood-mark upon him, and then sent forth in the power of God's Spirit to live in accordance with his new state.
But the ground of his safety and hope of being gathered unto Christ at His appearing, is never his personal attainment in holiness, his attitude of ex- pectancy, or his zeal in his Master's cause, though these will come into the question of rewards, but only and alone the grace of God.
All the " saints," therefore, from righteous Abel and those who "through faith obtained a good report" to the last sinner who to the end of this age shall be found to have sheltered under the precious blood and perfect righteousness of our Saviour Jesus Christ, shall be His "at His coming" (i Cor. xv. 23).
Oh ! what a glorious meeting that will be when those who in the age before His advent " rejoiced to see His
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day," and were by faith justified on the ground of redemption yet to be accomplished, and we, who since Calvary have been privileged to live in a dispensation of greater light and privilege, but not, alas ! of greater devotion or faithfulness, meet around the blessed person of the Redeemer to unite in the one song, " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour and glory " " for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and thou madest them unto our God a kingdom and priests ; and they reign on the earth."
And in that great day " the heavens shall declare His righteousness ; for God is Judge Himself" !
Yes, when the intricate drama of the conflict between good and evil, which the great and all-wise God permits to be enacted on earth during time shall be finished, and when He at last again in the person of His Son appears as the Judge and King of the earth, "the heavens" principalities, powers, and heavenly intelli- gences, shall declare His righteousness, shall vindicate His glorious character, and magnify His justice in all His dealings with men and angels, while the redeemed Church shall sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of nations ! Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy : for all nations shall come and worship before Thee ; for Thy judgments (or, literally, ' Thy righteousnesses ') are made manifest ! "
In relation to the Church especially His righteousness shall then be declared, and it shall be manifested how that He is just, and the justifier of them which believe in Jesus.
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" For God is Judge Himself." This is a solemn announcement of varying import. To God's people it is full of comfort, for it reminds them of the challenge, " Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect ? It is God who justifieth" ; while to the godless it is a statement full of terror, for it proclaims the fact that He, who is about to sit in judgment, is Elohim the searcher of hearts, from whom nothing can be hid ; whose knowledge is infinite, whose righteousness is inflexible, and whose vengeance is terrible. This first section, with the prologue of the first four verses, which contain a summary of the great truths in rela- tion to the Church, Israel, and the nations, more fully developed in the whole psalm, appropriately ends with a " Selah." This word, which is of doubtful derivation, was doubtless employed in the ritual use of the Psalms in the Temple worship to mark a pause. Probably the word indicated that the Levitical singers should pause while the players on instruments played an interlude or symphony. Once or twice we find it coupled with " Higgaion," the meaning of which has been suggested by two German scholars to be " pause," or " pause and meditate." Do the same, therefore, dear reader. "Pause" and consider, meditate on the great fact, awful circum- stances, and solemn issues to yourself, and to all men of His glorious appearing.